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The theory of r selection, favoring population growth, as opposed to K selection, favoring more efficient utilization of resources, has in recent years been applied by Rushton to contrast human ethnic groups in terms of their r/K reproductive strategies, suggesting the existence of a continuum from r groups, producing many offspring but providing little parental care, to K groups, producing few offspring but providing much parental care. Rushton's theory, which is largely based on ethnic differences in twinning rates, is here critically examined. It is pointed out that twinning rate differences are not necessarily genetic in origin since various environmental factors clearly play a role, and also that twinning, as a mode of reproduction, is not necessarily an r strategy, considering the high prenatal and perinatal selection to which it has been, and still is, associated. Moreover, Rushton misinterprets a number of relevant aspects related to the biology of twinning. The claim that ethnic differences in twinning rates provide evidence for an r/K typology in human populations with respect to reproductive strategies does not appear to be warranted.
Based on Dutch twin incidence figures since the beginning of the current century, evidence is provided in support of the idea that the DZ unlike/like sexed ratio has gradually shifted (since 1900) from unity to less than unity. Opposing conclusions with regard to the justification of the use of Weingberg's differential rule are very probably correct in themselves but could depend on country and period of birth of the twin sample used. Furthermore, the fast drop and subsequent rise in DZ twinning rate between about 1963 and 1990 can very likely for the greater part be ascribed to a parallel shift in maternal age.
A study was conducted on twinning in relatives of consecutive triplet sets in the Åland Islands in the years 1740-1939. The incidence of twinning in sibships of triplets was extremely high, 80/1000 (56/1000 before and 143/1000 after the triplet maternity). In Finland as a whole, 1905-1954, the twinning rate was among mothers of triplets 38/1000, ie, about 2.6 times the rate in general population, and was higher after (48/1000) than before the triplet maternity (34/1000). In the sibships of fathers of triplets there was a low rate of twinning (below 10/1000) both of same-sexed (SS) and of opposite-sexed (OS) triplets. Among sibships of mothers of OS triplets the twinning rate was 18/1000 and among mothers' sibships of SS triplets 26/1000. The series of triplet families from both Åland and Finland as a whole indicate a considerably higher frequency of twinning on the maternal than on the paternal side. The sibships of OS triplets in Finland have higher twinning rates than sibships of SS triplets (50/1000 vs 27/1000). In sibships of triplets, not only the DZ but also the MZ twinning rates were approximately twice as high as those in the general population. The triplet rates in Finland were increasing strongly with maternal age and were in the last century among mothers of 30-39 years of age considerably higher than among mothers from this century. This, in combination with higher mean parity, may explain the high rates of multiple maternities in sibships of triplets in the past. The rate of triplet maternities seems to be more sensitive to sociodemographic changes than the rate of twin maternities. Mothers of triplets in Finland had a high frequency (more than 40%) of prenuptially conceived firstborn children. This, and a short protogenesic interval indicate that triplet-prone mothers are more fecundable, ie, they conceive with greater ease and/or may have a better physical condition than other women for completing a gestation with multiple embryos.
In an attempt to improve our understanding of the factors that affect human twinning, we further developed the models given by Hellin (1895) and Peller (1946). The connection between these models and our own model (“Fellman's law”) were studied. These attempts have resulted in a more general model, which was then applied to data from Åland Islands (1750-1939), Nîmes (1790-1875), Stuttgart (about 1790-1900) and Utah (1850-1900). The product of the mean sibship size and the total twinning rate can be considered as a crude estimate of the expected number of sets of twins in a sibship. The same can be said about the twinning parameter in our model. These estimates are in good agreement. If we consider twinning data only, we obtain the geometric distribution, and log (Nk), where Nk is the number of mothers with k twin maternities, is a linear function of the number of recurrences. Graphically, this property can easily be checked. For sibships containing three or more sets of twins, all four populations show higher values than expected, particularly the populations from Stuttgart and Utah, which data also show poor agreement according to a χ2-test. A more exact model would demand more detailed demographic information, such as distribution of sibship sizes, age-specific twinning rates and temporal variations in twinning.
The osberved number of mothers in Åland with several recurrences of multiple maternities shows a considerable excess over the expected number as predicted by Peller's rule. The parameters in our model can be estimated by the maximum likelihood method and the obtained model fits the data better then Peller's model.
Twinning rates were studied in Swedes, Åland Islanders, Finns, Germans, and Dutch during years of starvation when death rates were two to three times higher than average. In contrast to the situation among some animals, this study suggests that nutrition above a certain threshold is unimportant for human reproduction, including twinning. The twinning rates for these different populations display marked temporal differences, but low values in the twinning rate are not consistently associated with periods of epidemics, famine, or similar nutritional stress. After years of privation and/or separation of spouses, a rapid “catch-up effect” can often be seen in the twinning rates, as well as marriage and birth rates. Psychoendocrine factors and interparental immunological conditions that may be involved in this phenomenon are discussed.
Urinary pepsinogen A (PGA or PG I) phenotypes and serum PGA levels were studied in MZ and DZ twins and their parents. In 45 out of 48 MZ twin pairs PGA patterns were completely identical, while 3 MZ twin pairs showed minor differences in the relative intensity of the Pg5 isozymogen. This suggests that the intensity of this isozymogen may be influenced by nongenetic factors. There was little difference in the interclass correlations of serum PGA levels between MZ and DZ twins, indicating a large contribution of common environmental factors to serum PGA levels. This is in contrast with previous studies.
Recent changes in the estimated incidence of monozygotic twinning in 15 European populations are described. The overall trend was an increase in the monozygotic twinning rate (MZTR) since the 1960s, particularly in those countries in which the use of oral contraceptives (OC) was widespread. A slower increase or even a decrease in the MZTR was observed in countries with low use of OC. Some countries, eg, Sweden, demonstrated an unexpectedly sharp increase since the 1960s. In Poland and the Federal Republic of Germany the MZTR was already strongly increasing as early as in the 1950s, clearly before the introduction of the pill. The influence of several other factors on the MZTR is discussed, such as toxic and teratogenic agents, pelvic infection diseases caused by the use of intrauterine devices, the increased use of ovulation inducers and neuroleptics as well as changes in the registration of perinatal deaths.
Linear regression models are used to explain the variations in the twinning rates. Data sets from different countries are analysed and maternal age, parity and marital status are the main regressors. The model building technique is also used in order to study the secular decline in the twinning rate. Linear regression technique makes it possible to compare the effect of different factors but the method requires sufficiently disaggregated data.
The rates of human multiple maternities in the Nordic countries were studied from continuous series of data. In the Åland and Åboland archipelagos the parish records for births and baptisms since the 1650's were used. Various sources, some unpublished, in the archives of statistics were used for Sweden (since 1749) and Finland (since 1859) as a whole. Until recently, the rates of multizygotic multiple maternities in isolated island populations in the Åland and Åboland archipelagos have been some of the highest known among Whites (15-20‰). Highly significant temporal fluctuations in the twinning rates were noted. In Sweden, the twinning rate during the last part of 18th century was about twice as high as it was in 1966-70. The triplet and quadruplet rates were about three to four times as high as they are nowadays. There has been a secular decline in DZ twinning. This downward trend set in first in the isolated populations. In Sweden, it started in the 1930's, but in Finland, not until the 1960's. The steep downward trend in the twinning rates is shown to set in about one generation after the break-up of isolation. This can be interpreted as evidence that the changes in matrimonial migration patterns have affected the rates of DZ twinning.
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